Since we were only stopping in Vietnam once, I decided to join the crew tour. I wanted to ensure that I would see as much as possible in our one day in Saigon. The tour started with a rather terrifying bus ride. The roads are filled with scooters, some holding up to 3 people! Lanes don’t seem to exist, so the scooters, cars, and buses all fight for space.
Our first stop was the Reunification Hall. We took a tour inside, hearing interesting facts from our tour guide about the palace, the Vietnam War, and Vietnam in general. The hall, formerly known as the Independence Palace, is a particularly important landmark, because on April 30, 1975 a tank crashed through the front gate and marked the end of the Vietnam War.
By the time we got to lunch, it was nearly 4:00pm. We were starving! Luckily, there was a wonderful meal in store for us. We ate at the top floor of The Grand Hotel. We had seafood soup, fried vegetables, steamed fish, lychee salad, rice, and best of all, coconut beef. The beef came out inside coconut shells, and after the waiters set down the trays, they lit them on fire. It was such a spectacle! Dessert consisted of some delicious fresh fruit, and some of the best coffee I’ve had in months. If you have a chance to drink Vietnamese coffee, do it!
The next stop was City Hall. It was beautiful, but since it was already getting dark, it was a bit anticlimactic. The next two stops were supposed to be photo stops, so some friends and I opted to take off and explore on our own for a bit, instead of setting ourselves up for disappointment when our photos didn’t turn out well in the dark.
We started at a Bier Garden, accidentally walked into a brothel, and then ended our evening on a deck bar. Despite rainy weather, the deck was great. We had a lot of laughs, and then trudged through the rain to meet up with the tour bus. Some friends stayed in the city overnight, but I returned to the ship for a birthday party. It was an awesome night, and a great end to a fun, adventure filled day!